Sunday, 9 July 2017

Random Route: The 215

The 215 runs from Walthamstow Central-Lea Valley Campsite, passing through Crooked Billet, Chingford Mount and Yardley Lane, acting as a relief route for the busy 97, but also providing links from the Yardley Lane Estate to Walthamstow Town Centre. It runs every 20 minutes from Monday-Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sunday, running from Stagecoach London's Leyton (T) garage, with existing ADL Enviro 400 vehicles. It can get quite busy if the 97 doesn't show up, but generally the route is fairly quiet along the busy corridors it serves. I rode this route back in April and loved it for the unique experience it provided at the Northern end, but also due to the somewhat interesting external surroundings on the more mainstream section in Walthamstow.

Stagecoach London 10116 stands at Lea Valley Campsite.
I arrived at Walthamstow Bus Station with five minutes until my 13:19 departure was due to leave and a surprisingly low number of people boarded the bus, with only two other travellers making it upstairs. The bus eventually left the busy Walthamstow Bus Station and turned left twice onto Hoe Street, which was thriving with shoppers visiting the various independant retailers, which weren't considered to be upmarket enough for exhibition in The Mall Shopping Centre. A large number of bus services run along this particular stretch of road, so the traffic was fairly heavy, but my bus continued to move at a decent pace through the shopping street. Eventually, the bus crossed Bell Corner, an important junction which leads to Tottenham in the West and Woodford in the East, but the 215 continued straight on into Chingford, where suburbia revealed itself and a seemingly endless array of terraced housing stretched out into the distance, but eventually the road twisted and turned and revealed some charming green space which was aesthetically pleasing, even if it formed a college rather than a recreation ground. A brief array of restaurants and local convenience stores followed shortly, just before a rather daunting roundabout, where the 215 paused at the traffic lights for some time, before embracing Crooked Billet.

The number 34 in front raced down the North Circular Road, but the 215 continued heading North and met an unusually large traffic jam, which appeared to be for the Sainsbury's superstore to the left. However, this gave me more time to admire the stunning view of the former Walthamstow Stadium site, which used to be a greyhound racing track, but unfortunately the builders were present and it seems more flats will magically appear as a replacement for this unique site. Less than a few minutes away from Sainsbury's, a Morrisons appeared in the middle of the next residential segment, before the next cluster of local convenience stores, which seemed to be marooned just outside of the fairly substantial high street of Chingford Mount, consisting of all the local necessities (such as Boots & Shoe Zone), but nothing too fancy, as that requires a trip to Walthamstow!

Chingford Mount seemed to be centred round an obelisk, which is incidentally found in the exact location of the bus stand for routes 158 and W16, which was getting rather overcrowded as my 215 went past. Eventually, the high street came to an abrupt halt when the 215 was forced to negotiate a very steep hill (and we were pretty successful in doing so), before the next residential section of North Chingford, which contained a mixture of detached and semi-detached housing, being slightly more affluent than the previous areas. The next roundabout determined the pathway of my bus, where it finally split off from the 97 into what initially seemed like deciduous woodland, although the iBus announcement revealed that the sudden influx of trees was due to Mansfield Park, which is different to the estate in Chessington and the novel by Jane Austin!

The highlight of the trip was at this moment, where I absorbed a breathtaking view of the William Girling Reservoir and the industrial factories of Brimsdown on the other side of the water; despite the experience only being momentary; I will still treasure that image for many years to come. The 215 then descended down Mansfield Hill at high speed, before joining the traffic queue to join the A110, the first reservoir crossing for some time. However, my bus decided to buck the trend and continue heading out of Greater London, into the depths of Yardley Lane, where the main road divided the residential housing and the valley on my left, where the pylons of North London could be seen in the far distance behind the grass. The bus reached some very high speeds along the A112, in the middle of the deserted area of Sewardstone, until the lay-by of Yardley Lane, where the 215 used to terminate in Winter months, although the route now runs to Lee Valley all year long.

I was surprised to find my fellow companions upstairs still on board, suggesting that the link from Walthamstow to the Campsite is fairly popular, or they might've been fellow enthusiasts. The twists and turns in between the peaceful green fields didn't prevent my driver from thrashing through the countryside and the reservoir revealed itself once more, enabling me to digest the stunning panorama visible from the top deck. The view lasted for much longer this time and the road was completely empty, apart from a couple of ramblers walking below, but the experience ended far too soon, when the 215 turned left into the campsite, terminating just outside the various caravans and cottages located in this part of Rural Britain. This stand is one of the most unusual in London, found in a remote settlement amongst boundless, never-ending green space.

Even if the start was a little repetitive, I loved my experience on the 215; it's certainly one of the most unique double deck routes in London, providing some fabulous views that can only be seen from the top deck of a bus. If you like a mixture of urban settlements and rural countryside, this route is perfect for you and I highly recommend you try it out, preferably sitting upstairs "at the front, on the left", the typical enthusiast seat. This route has been awarded 8/10 and placed at number 51/256 on my revamped route ratings page, which has been converted to a linked spreadsheet, ranking every bus route in London I've ridden in addition to the ratings I previously provided. I've also added a new poll on the main page about Oxford Street buses, please vote!

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Note: I apologise for the delay in the Orpington Changes post, my bus trip yesterday was cancelled unexpectedly, but I hope to publish this next week.